Refugee Integration – Employment, Language and Wellbeing Support Key, Report Finds

The final evaluation, funded by The Bell Foundation, of the Wellbeing and Work for Refugee Integration (WW4RI) project has been published.

The final report of the Wellbeing and Work for Refugee Integration (WW4RI) project has been published, demonstrating the importance of employment, language and wellbeing support to refugee integration.

The WW4RI project, led by the East of England Local Government Association’s Strategic Migration Partnership (EELGA SMP), provides tailored support to participants. This support seeks to tackle the key integration barriers faced by refugees across three strands: Employment, ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) and Skills, and Wellbeing.

The project’s final evaluation report, funded by The Bell Foundation, shows that by supporting ‘facilitators’ of integration, like language skills and cultural understanding, participants are empowered to build ‘social connections’ within the community and with UK institutions. These ‘facilitators’ contribute to the enhanced health and wellbeing of participants, and an increased ability to move into employment – or self-employment - and take greater control over their lives - key indicators of integration.

Speaking about the project, one participant commented:

“[Without the project] I wouldn’t have applied for a job, I wouldn’t be volunteering, I wouldn’t have been able do a placement or feel confident, or fill out forms, anything. I wouldn’t have tried. I would have given up; it would be too difficult to do on my own. [The project] made me confident.”  

Another participant said:

“If these guys were not supporting me, I could not do anything. I did not know anything at all about this country. It’s totally different than our country.”

As part of the project, participants can attend a range of language and wider skills courses. These include sector-specific ESOL courses, developed specifically for the East of England, such as Preparing to Work in Warehousing, Logistics and Transport, and Preparing to Work with Food.

Since April 2020, 369 refugees have accessed support through this strand. Almost three-quarters of participants surveyed reported that their language proficiency had improved because of the support they received. These clients gave an average rating of 2.38 (out of 5) for how they considered their language skills prior to support and an average of 3.88 afterwards, equating to a 63% increase.

The evidence also indicates that, as a result of the support they received, participants built their confidence in speaking to others and are more likely to ask for help and communicate with professionals and English-speaking people from other backgrounds.

One participant stated that:

“Speaking English has really helped. I can now communicate fully with others and do things on my own. I can go shopping. I am more confident and do whatever I need to do.”

Through the Employment strand, participants work with a dedicated employment advisor to support their path into work – 679 refugees having done so since April 2020. In another 80 cases, a business adviser has offered advice on establishing a business. Despite often having the necessary skills and experience, unemployment levels tend to be high amongst refugees.[i] Even where participants have not yet moved into formal employment, the project supported many to move closer to employment, with 88% of participants surveyed reporting an improvement in their employment skills.

Through the project, participants can access targeted wellbeing support, including access to a therapist. This is significant as some participants have arrived in the UK in dangerous and traumatic circumstances. Since the start of the project, 214 refugees have received wellbeing support.

In all the wellbeing measures included in the CORE (Clinical Outcomes in Routine Evaluation) data, at least half of participants reported an improvement. This includes in areas such as anxiety, unwanted memories and difficulties sleeping.  Some participants also reported an improvement in feelings of being safe; they have also been helped with the trauma they experienced, including lasting effects like nightmares, fear and an inability to interact in social situations.


The recommendations include, for example, the need for a common ESOL assessment tool to ensure consistent language referrals, the development of further ESOL courses on UK culture and the provision of additional support for those with lower levels of English proficiency.

Speaking about the project’s evaluation, Louise Gooch from EELGA SMP said: “It has been a privilege to work with the dedicated employment advisers, ESOL providers and wellbeing services. They have shown how, with the right kind of support, refugees can secure work that is commensurate with their skills and experience. Employers have told us how much they value their refugee employees and we hope that other parts of the UK will be inspired to create similar projects at a time when the country is welcoming many refugees.

Diana Sutton, Director of The Bell Foundation, said: “This report provides a timely insight into the experiences and needs of refugees in the UK. For people arriving in an unfamiliar country, often in exceptionally difficult circumstances, the tailored support can be life-changing.

“Since 2010, the Adult Education Budget has seen a 50 per cent reduction, meaning that for many, access to ESOL has been reduced. But as this evaluation, funded by the Foundation, shows us so clearly, by providing support in areas like English language skills, refugees can be empowered to achieve their educational and employment aspirations, and to build important social connections.”


  • The initial phase of the WW4RI project runs from April 2020 to December 2022, delivered across Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Suffolk, Bedfordshire, and Hertfordshire.
  • The WW4RI project partners are: East of England Local Government Association’s Strategic Migration Partnership (lead partner), Essex Integration, the Refugee Council, Norfolk County Council, Suffolk Refugee Support, EPUT (Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust) Health Outreach NHS, Peterborough Asylum and Refugee Community Association (PARCA), Gladstone Community Association (GLADCA), Mid-Anglian Enterprise Agency (MENTA) and Concept Training. There are also five subcontracted partners: Workers’ Educational Association (WEA), Bedford Refugee and Asylum Seeker Support (BRASS), Specialist Language Courses (SLC), Community Action Dacorum (CAD) and the Kings Arms Project.
  • The WW4RI project is funded by the European Union Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF), with funding for the project’s evaluation provided by The Bell Foundation.

[i] Tapping Potential: Guidelines to Helping British Businesses Employ Refugees, UNHCR (2019).

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